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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
2 Corinthians 12



Other Authors
Verse 1

1. Καυχᾶσθαι δεῖ· οὐ συμφέρον μέν, ἐλεύσομαι δὲ κ.τ.λ. See critical note. The confusion as to the text need excite no suspicion that the whole verse is spurious. An interpolation of this kind, when once made, would be no more liable to corruption than an original text: an interpolator would be likely to insert what was simple, and in no need of tinkering. The variations in the text are such as would spring naturally from different mistakes in copying and different attempts to correct these mistakes. Assuming the text as quoted to be correct, translate; I must needs glory: it is not indeed expedient, but I will come to visions &c. He is forced to glory, although he knows that glorying is not good. But there is another point which he must urge, viz. the revelations granted to him. By οὐ συμφέρον is meant that it is not profitable: he glories, not because it pays to do so, But because he cannot help himself. Or, reading δὲ οὐ for δεῖ· οὐ, we have; But to glory is not indeed expedient, but I will come &c. Κυρίου belongs to both ὀπτασίας and ἀποκαλύφεις. These experiences were not delusions, and they were not the work of Satan. Κυρίου is probably the subjective genitive, of Him from whom the visions and revelations proceed, as in διʼ ἀποκαλύψεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (Galatians 1:12); not the objective, of Him who is seen and revealed, as in ὀπτασίαν ἀγγέλων (Luke 24:23) or ἐν τῇ ἀποκαλύψει τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ (2 Thessalonians 1:7). The objective genitive would apply to Acts 9:4-6; Acts 18:9; Acts 22:18; Acts 23:11, and perhaps Acts 27:23; but not to Acts 9:12 or Acts 16:9 : the subjective genitive would cover all these, and also Galatians 2:2. The subjective genitive would here be more certain, if ἀποκαλύψεις stood alone: ἀποκάλυψις Κυρίου may = Κύριος ἀποκαλύπτει: but ὀπτασία Κυρίου cannot be thus resolved. An ὀπτασία is a special kind of ἀποκάλυψις: a revelation may be made without anything being seen. On the other hand, not all visions are revelations. But an ὀπτασία Κυρίου would be a revelation; He would not send it unless He had something to make known. Indeed, in Scripture, ὀπτασία seems not to be used, except of visions that are revelations (Luke 1:22; Luke 24:23; Acts 26:19; Malachi 3:2; Theodotion’s version of Daniel 9:23; Daniel 10:1; Daniel 10:7-8; Daniel 10:16, where in the LXX. we have ὅρασις or ὅραμα). Three times in the Apocrypha ὀπτασία is otherwise used (Sirach 43:2; Sirach 43:16; and the addition to Esther 4:13). But in the canonical books other words are employed, where mere sight or appearance, as distinct from divine manifestation, is meant. The word ὀπτασία is not classical; and it was probably colloquial before it became Biblical. It survives in modern Greek. See Kennedy, Sources of N. T. Greek, p. 154.

The conjecture that S. Paul is here answering an attack which had been made on him respecting his claim to have had ‘visions and revelations’ seems to receive some confirmation from the Clementine Homilies and Recognitions, a sort of religious romance, in parts of which S. Paul appears to be criticized in the person of Simon Magus. That Simon throughout represents S. Paul is an untenable hypothesis; for specially Pauline doctrines are not attributed to Simon and condemned by S. Peter. But here and there the Judaizing authors or compilers of these two writings have, under cover of Simon Magus, made a hit at the Apostle, whose teaching and work they so disliked; and they may be employing an old taunt against S. Paul when they laugh at the ‘visions’ of Simon Magus; see especially Hom. xvii. 14–20. “Simon said, Visions and dreams, being God-sent, do not speak falsely in regard to those things which they have to tell. And Peter said, You were right in saying that, being God-sent, they do not speak falsely. But it is uncertain if he who sees has seen a God-sent dream” [15]. Comp. Hom. xi. 35, ii. 17, 18; Recog. ii. 55, iii. 49, iv. 35; and see Hort, Clementine Recognitions, pp. 120 ff.; also Hastings’ DB. iv. p. 524.

Verse 2

2. οἷδα ἄνθρωπον ἐν Χριστῷ πρὸ ἐτῶν δεκατεσσάρωνἁρπαγέντα κ.τ.λ. I know a man in Christ fourteen years ago, … such a one caught up &c. The A.V. is misleading. The Apostle does not say that fourteen years ago he knew a man caught up &c.; but that he knows a man who fourteen years ago was caught up &c. The ‘man in Christ’ is himself (2 Corinthians 12:7); and ἐν Χριστῷ probably means more than whose life was in Christ, who was a Christian. At this extraordinary crisis he was swallowed up in Christ, so as almost to lose his own personality. Conybeare and Howson take ἐν Χριστῷ with ἁρπαγέντα, “which would have come immediately after δεκατεσσάρων, had it not been intercepted by the parenthetic clause”; caught up in the power of Christ.

The rhythmical balance and swing of the Greek are like the strophe and antistrophe of a chorus. We may conjecture that the Apostle had often meditated on this marvellous experience, and that his meditations had at last acquired a sort of cadence. See Appendix D.

πρὸ ἐτῶν δεκατεσσάρων. ante annos quatuordecim. This mode of expression is somewhat late Greek, and possibly was influenced by the Latin idiom. Comp. πρὸ ἒξ ἡμερῶν τοῦ πάσχα (John 12:1): πρὸ δύο ἐτῶν τοῦ σεισμοῦ (Amos 1:1): πρὸ τριῶν μηνῶν τοῦ τρυγητοῦ (Amos 4:7). Theodoret suggests that S. Paul gives the date to let the Corinthians know that they have compelled him, after so many years of silence, to speak of this matter. But there is nothing to show that he had never mentioned it before. Still less likely is it that the date is given to connect this with the flight from Damascus. As the date of the flight is not given, to give the date of this occurrence shows no connexion between the two. The date of an extraordinary personal experience remains impressed on the memory, and it is quite natural, when one mentions the experience, to begin with the date. Moreover, the Hebrew prophets constantly do so with regard to their special inspirations (Isaiah 6:1; Isaiah 14:28; Isaiah 20:1-2; Jeremiah 42:7; Ezekiel 1:1, &c.).

εἴτε ἐν σώματι οὐκ οἶδαοὐκ οἶδαοἶδεν. Whether in the body I know not, or out of the body I know not; God knoweth; such a one caught up even to the third heaven. His meaning is that he was conscious of being caught up: that much he knows: his being transferred to heaven was a fact. But where his body was at the time, whether in heaven or on earth, that he does not know: his consciousness with regard to that is a blank. Traditions respecting Enoch and Elijah bad made the idea of bodily translation to heaven familiar to the Jews, and S. Paul seems to think that his experience may have been a temporary translation of this kind. What he says in 1 Corinthians 15:50 would not exclude such a supposition; he is there speaking of the permanent abiding of bodies in heaven. In the Latin Visio Pauli (see Appendix B) it is stated that he was translated bodily; dum in corpore essem in quo raptus sum usque ad tercium coelum. He is not here doubting whether the whole thing was a delusion. He is quite sure that he himself was for a time in heaven: what he is not sure of is, the relation between his body and his spirit at the time of the revelation. Philo (de somn. I. p. 626. 4) says that there was a tradition that Moses became ἀσώματος when he fasted 40 days and nights. The frequent repetition of οἷδα in 2 Corinthians 12:2-3 must be preserved in translation. The Apostle is very clear about what he knows and what he does not know. For ἁρπάζειν in this sense comp. Acts 8:39; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; Revelation 12:5 : it is not used either of Enoch (Genesis 4:24), or of Elijah (2 Kings 2:11). The omission of the article before τρίτον is not irregular (Acts 2:15; Acts 23:23, &c.); before ordinals it is not necessary. For εἴτεεἴτε … see on 2 Corinthians 1:6.

Verse 3

3. καὶ οἷδα κ.τ.λ. And I know such a man, whether in the body or apart from the body, I know not; God knoweth. The use made by Athanasius of S. Paul’s οὐκ οἷδα is a curiosity of exegesis: see con. Arian. III. 47. The change (see critical note) from ἐκτός (2 Corinthians 12:2; 1 Corinthians 6:18) to χωρίς (2 Corinthians 11:28; 1 Corinthians 11:11, &c.) should be marked in translation. The Vulgate has extra corpus in both verses, its usual rendering of χωρίς being sine. The fact that in both verses ἐν σώματι stands first is no indication that S. Paul himself regarded this alternative as the more probable: with εἴτεεἴτε the alternatives are given as equal; comp. 2 Corinthians 5:9; 2 Corinthians 5:13. The expression ἐν σώματι (Hebrews 13:3), without article, is adverbial, ‘corporeally’: comp. ἐν οἴκῳ (1 Corinthians 11:34; 1 Corinthians 14:35; Mark 2:1), ‘indoors, at home.’ Irenaeus (V. 2 Corinthians 12:1) uses it of Enoch; Ἐνὼχ εὐαρεστήσας τῷ θεῷ ἐν σώματι μετετέθη. See Westcott on Hebrews 13:3. In the Testament of Abraham σωματικῶς and ἐν σώματι are used indifferently: Abraham says, σωματικῶς ἤθελον ἀναληφθῆναι. The Lord says to Michael, ἀναλαβοῦ ἐν σώματι τὸν Ἀβραάμ (Recension B. vii., viii.). The whole passage is interesting in connexion with these verses.

Verse 4

4. ὅτι ἡρπάγη εἰς τὸν παράδεισον. If the repetition of ἁρπάγεσθαι is somewhat in favour of the identification of paradise with the third heaven, the καὶ before οἶδα (2 Corinthians 12:3) is in favour of separate cases of rapture. ‘I know a man … and I know such a one’ points to two experiences: haec iterata plane duplex rei momentum exprimunt (Bengel). Had S. Paul put a καί before εἰς τὸν παράδεισον, there could have been no doubt. Irenaeus (II. xxx. 7) plainly distinguishes the two; “was caught up even to the third heaven, and again was carried into paradise.” Tertullian (de Praes. Haer. 24) similarly; “was caught up even to the third heaven and was carried into paradise.” Clement of Alexandria (Strom. v. xii. p. 693 ed. Potter) also; “caught up even to the third heaven and thence into paradise.” Cyril of Jerusalem (Cat. Lect. xiv. 26) likewise; “Elijah was taken up only to heaven; but Paul both into heaven and into paradise.” Epiphanius writes to John, Bishop of Jerusalem; “When he mentions the third heaven, and then adds the word ‘paradise,’ he shows that heaven is in one place and paradise in another” (Jerome, Ep. li. 5). But we are unable to fix the meaning of either ‘third heaven’ or ‘paradise.’

From the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (Levi 2, 3) we know that some Jews about S. Paul’s time distinguished seven heavens; in which they were followed by the Valentinian Gnostics, and later by the Mahometans. But we do not know whether this idea was familiar to S. Paul; still less whether he is alluding to it here. Irenaeus (II. xxx. 7) contends against the notion that the Apostle reached the third of the Valentinian heavens and left the four higher heavens unvisited. Here, ἕως implies that the ‘third heaven’ is a very high heaven, if not the highest; and he uses both ‘third heaven’ and ‘paradise’ as terms which his readers will be likely to understand. But we cannot infer from this that both terms were already familiar to them. S. Bernard (de Grad. Hum.) makes the three heavens symbolize the Trinity and the three graces of humility, charity, and perfect union with the Father in glory.

Jewish ideas respecting paradise were fantastic and conflicting. Sometimes it was thought of as the Garden of Eden, either still remaining on earth or removed to another world; sometimes as that part of the region below the earth in which the souls of the righteous are at peace; sometimes as a region in heaven; which seems to be the meaning here. The Book of the Secrets of Enoch (which, like the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, was written about the time of S. Paul, and therefore is evidence for ideas current in his day) throws much light on this subject. It describes the seven heavens, and in one place either the third heaven is paradise or it contains paradise: “These men took me from thence and placed me in the midst of a garden … and in the midst [is] the tree of life, in that place on which God rests when He comes into paradise” (viii. 1–3). In another passage the idea is different: “I went to the East, to the paradise of Eden, where rest has been prepared for the just, and it is open to the third heaven, and shut from this world” (xlii. 3). In the Testaments (Levi 18) ‘the heavens’ and ‘paradise’ seem to be different. In the Psalms of Solomon (14:2), in the παράδεισος κυρίου, the saints are the trees of life (a great advance on the usual materialism); but there is no indication of the relation of heaven to paradise.

It is impossible to determine whether S. Paul was influenced by, or even was acquainted with, any of these ideas. With the thought of a plurality of heavens we may compare ὁ ἀναβὰς ὑπεράνω πάντων τῶν οὐρανῶν (Ephesians 4:10) and ἀρχιερέα μέγαν διεληλυθότα τούς οὐρανούς (Hebrews 4:14; comp. Hebrews 7:26). Only three times does the word παράδεισος occur in the N.T. (here; Luke 23:43; Revelation 2:7). In the O.T. it is either ‘a pleasure-ground’ (Nehemiah 2:8; Song of Solomon 4:13; Ecclesiastes 2:5) or ‘the garden of Eden’ (Genesis 2:9-10; Genesis 2:15-16, &c.). Nowhere does it appear to be used to convey any special revelation respecting the unseen world. See Hastings’ DB. ii. pp. 668 ff.

In the Fathers S. Paul is sometimes said to have heard unutterable words in the third heaven. This is mere laxity of quotation: it is no proof that the writer identifies paradise with the third heaven.

ἤκουσεν ἄρρητα ῥήματα ἃ οὐκ ἐξὸν ἀνθρώπῳ λαλῆσαι. The play upon words (comp. 2 Corinthians 1:13, 2 Corinthians 3:2, 2 Corinthians 4:8, &c.) can be reproduced in English; unutterable utterances which a man may (Matthew 12:4; Acts 2:29) not speak (2 Corinthians 2:17, 2 Corinthians 4:13, 2 Corinthians 7:14). The last clause explains ἄρρητα, ‘things which may not be uttered,’ arcana verba, quae non licet homini loqui (Vulgate). He has no right, not he is unable, to utter them. The word ἄρρητος is found here only in Biblical Greek, but is fairly common in classical Greek of sacred names, mysteries, &c. The addition of ἀνθρώπῳ is not superfluous: no human being ought to repeat on earth what has been said in heaven. Calvin here has some good remarks as to the vanity of speculation respecting the things which the Apostle was not allowed to reveal. Stanley contrasts the reticence of the Apostle with the details given by Mahomet. People who claim to have received revelations commonly do give details. It is specially remarkable that S. Paul never quotes these experiences in heaven as evidence for his teaching. How easy to have claimed special revelation in defence of his treatment of the Gentiles! There is a somewhat similar paronomasia in the ἀλάλους λαλεῖν of Mark 7:37.

This statement about ‘hearing unutterable utterances’ is in itself conclusive against the identification of this incident with the trance in the Temple (Acts 22:17 ff.), in telling of which the Apostle says nothing as to his being caught up to heaven, but does tell what the Lord said to him. Moreover, the trance in the Temple seems to have taken place at an earlier date than this incident. 2 Corinthians was probably written about A.D. 57. ‘Fourteen years ago’ takes us back to about A.D. 43. But the trance appears to have followed soon after the conversion, which cannot be placed either much earlier or much later than A.D. 37 (see on 2 Corinthians 11:32); and there cannot have been six years between the conversion and the trance. But if the identification of this incident with the trance is chronologically impossible, still more impossible is its identification with the conversion; yet this also has been suggested. Perhaps the strangest theory of all is the one which identifies the being caught up even to the third heaven with the unconsciousness caused by the stoning at Lystra, when he was supposed to be dead (Acts 14:19). Could S. Paul write of unconsciousness after being nearly killed by maltreatment in such words as he uses here? On the “reticence, or studied vagueness, or emphatic assertion of the symbolism,” of Scripture respecting the special revelations of God made to Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Ezekiel, S. Stephen, and S. Paul, see Lightfoot, Sermons on Special Occasions, pp. 94–97.

Verse 5

5. ὑπὲρ τοῦ τοιούτου καυχήσομαι. Hoc de se humilitatis causa, quasi in alterius persona loquitur (Sedulius ad loc. Migne, P. L. ciii.). S. Paul speaks of himself throughout as if he were another person; not merely because this glorying about himself was distressing to him, and feelings of modesty suggested to him (as to many writers at the present day) to speak of himself in the third person; but because a person in ecstasy, to his everyday self, is another person. “He who was caught up to the third heaven and heard unspeakable words is a different Paul from him who says, Of such an one I will glory” (Origen on John, Book x. 5). “He speaks of a divided experience, of two selves, two Pauls: one Paul in the third heaven, enjoying the beatific vision: another yet on earth, struggling, tempted, tried and buffeted by Satan” (F. W. Robertson). That τοῦ τοιούτου is neuter, ‘such a matter,’ is improbable, both on account of the contrast with ἐμαυτοῦ and also of τὸν τ. ἄνθρωπον (2 Corinthians 12:3). Of ‘such a one’ he will glory, because in all this he was passive: he did nothing, and could claim no merit; it was all a ‘revelation of the Lord.’ As to his own doings, he will not glory, except in what may be called his weaknesses. He here repeats the principle laid down in 2 Corinthians 11:30.

Verse 6

6. ἐὰν γὰρ θελήσω. If he chooses to glory of matters in which he was not a mere passive recipient, or of revelations which he has the right to disclose, he will not be foolish in so doing; for he will say nothing but what is true. But he abstains, lest any should get a more exalted idea of him than their experience of the Apostle’s conduct and teaching confirms. He desires to be judged by his ministerial work, not by what he can tell, however truly, of his privileges. Some take θελήσω as fut. indic. and hold that it implies that he does wish: but it may be aor. subjunct. Blass (§ 65. 5) contends that there is no certain instance of ἐάν with the fut. indic.; everywhere the reading is doubtful. But in Luke 19:40; Acts 8:31 the evidence is strong: comp. 1 Thessalonians 3:8; 1 John 5:15. Winer, p. 369. For the timeless aor. infin. comp. 2 Corinthians 2:7, 2 Corinthians 5:4; 1 Corinthians 14:19; 1 Corinthians 16:7. Here ἄφρων used without irony. For φείδομαι absolute comp. 2 Corinthians 13:2 μὴ φείσῃ (Isaiah 54:2); οὐκ ἐφείσατο (Ps. Sol. 17:14): also Eur. Tro. 1285: elsewhere in the N.T. with a genitive; in the LXX. with ἀπό, περί, ὑπέρ, ἐπί τινι, ἐπί τινα.

μή τις εἰς ἐμὲ λογίσηται. Lest any man should count (2 Corinthians 3:5, 2 Corinthians 5:19, 2 Corinthians 10:2; 2 Corinthians 10:7; 2 Corinthians 10:11, 2 Corinthians 11:5) of me. The constr. is rare: comp. εἰς ἐμὲ ἐλογίσαντο πονηρά (Hosea 7:15).

ἢ ἀκούει ἐξ ἐμοῦ. Or heareth from me: ‘of me’ (A.V.) is misleading. It is his own preaching, not what others say of him, that is meant. Comp. παρʼ ἐμοῦ ἥκουσας (2 Timothy 1:13; 2 Timothy 2:2; also Acts 9:13; Acts 10:22; Acts 28:22).

Verse 7

7. Both text (see critical note) and punctuation are uncertain, and some primitive error may be suspected. But the general meaning is clear. In order to prevent him from being too much lifted up by the extraordinary revelations granted to him, some extraordinary bodily suffering of a very humiliating kind was laid upon him.

καὶ τῇ ὑπερβολῇ τῶν ἀποκαλύψεων. The experiences just mentioned are primarily meant; but from Acts we learn that revelations were frequent. In Acts 16:6-10 we have three. WH. prefer to attach these words to 2 Corinthians 12:6 : but I forbear, lest any man …, and by reason of the exceeding greatness of the revelations; i.e. he has two reasons for abstaining, [1] fear of seeming to exaggerate, and [2] the greatness of the revelations. Lachmann would attach these words to 2 Corinthians 12:5, making 2 Corinthians 12:6 a parenthesis: I will not glory, save in my weaknesses (for if I choose to glory …) and in the exceeding greatness of the revelations. “Neither construction however justifies itself on close examination; and in all probability there is a corruption somewhere” (WH.). Faulty dictation might account for the best certified text. The Apostle, for emphasis, begins with the revelations, then breaks off with διό, and finishes with a different construction, repeating ἵνα μὴ ὑπεραίρωμαι in his impressiveness: And by reason of the exceeding greatness (2 Corinthians 4:7) of the revelationswherefore, that I should not be exalted overmuch (2 Thessalonians 2:4), there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, that I should not be exalted over much (R.V.). This seems to be less awkward than either of the other arrangements: but in all three the meaning is much the same. Comp. ΄ενέλαος χείριστα τῶν ἄλλων ὑπερῄρετο τοῖς πολίταις (2 Maccabees 5:23). In classical Greek ὑπεραίρειν is more often in trans. Irenaeus paraphrases, ἵνα μὴ ἐπαρθεὶς ἀστοχήσῃ τῆς ἀληθείας (V. iii. 1).

ἐδόθη μοι. By whom? By God: neque enim diabolus agebat, ne magnitudine revelationum Paulus extolleretur et ut virtus ejus proflceretur, sed Deus (Augustine, de Nat. et Grat. 27). Augustine argues in a similar way in the Reply to Faustus (xxii. 20). The σκόλοψ was given by God through the instrumentality of Satan, who is regarded as always ready to inflict suffering for its own sake (comp. 1 Corinthians 5:5 with Ellicott’s note, and 1 Timothy 1:20); but the ἵνα μή forbids the making Satan the nom. to ἐδόθη. Comp. the use of ἐδόθη in Galatians 3:21; Ephesians 3:8; Ephesians 4:7; Ephesians 6:19; 1 Timothy 4:14; of δίδοται, 1 Corinthians 12:7-8; and δέδοται, 1 Corinthians 11:15.

σκόλοψ τῇ σαρκί. A thorn for the flesh is more probable than a thorn in the flesh (A.V., R.V.): for the double dative, μοιτῇ σαρκί, comp. ἐὰν μὴ πιστεύσωσίν σοι τοῖς δυσὶ σημείοις τούτοις (Exodus 4:9). And thorn (A.V., R.V.) is more probable than ‘stake’ (R.V. marg.). Nowhere else in the N.T. does σκόλοψ occur: in the LXX. it is found four times. Numbers 33:55, σκόλοπες ἐν τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς ὑμῶν καὶ βολίδες ἐν ταῖς πλευραῖς ὑμῶν. Ezekiel 28:24, οὐκ ἔσονται οὐκέτι ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ τοῦ Ἰσραὴλ σκόλοψ πικρίας καὶ ἄκανθα ὀδύνης. Hosea 2:6, ἐγὼ φράσσω τὴν ὁδὸν αὐτῆς ἑν σκόλοψιν, καὶ ἀνοικοδομήσω τὰς ὁδοὺς καὶ τὴν τρίβον αὐτῆς οὐ μὴ εὔρῃ. Sirach 43:19, καὶ πάχνην ὡς ἅλα ἐπὶ γῆς χέει, καὶ παγεῖσα γίνεται σκολόπων ἄκρα. In the first three passages it represents three different Hebrew words; sek, sillôn, sir, of which sillôn occurs Ezekiel 2:6, and sir Isaiah 34:13; Nahum 1:10; Ecclesiastes 7:6; and sillôn is connected with Aramaic and Syriac words which mean ‘thorn’ or ‘point.’ ‘Thorn’ or ‘splinter’ seems to be the meaning in all these passages, and ‘stake’ would not suit any of them, except Hosea 2:6. Wetstein and Fritzsche quote Artemidorus (Oneirocrit. III. 33), ἄκανθαι καὶ σκόλοπες ὀδύνας σημαίνουσι διὰ τὸ ὀξὺ, καὶ ἐμποδισμοὺς διὰ τὸ καθεκτικὸν, καὶ φροντίδας καὶ λύπας διὰ τὸ τραχύ, where ‘thorns and briars’ seems to be the meaning: comp. Dioscorides (xxvi. 24), ταύτης ὁ καρπὸς καὶ τὸ δάκρυον καταπλασσόμενα ἑπισπᾶται σκόλοπας, where ‘thorns’ or ‘splinters’ is evidently the meaning. But in classical Greek the common meaning is ‘stake,’ either for palisading or impaling; and a stake for impaling would be a suitable metaphor for great suffering, Moreover, σκόλοψ was sometimes used as equivalent to σταυρός (perhaps contemptuously in the first instance), and ἀνασκολοπίζω was used for crucifixion. Thus Celsus said of Christ, ὤφειλεν εἰς ἐπίδειξιν θεότητος ἀπὸ τοῦ σκόλοπος εὐθὺς ἀφανὴς γενέσθαι (Orig. con. Cels. II. 68), and Eusebius uses ἁνασκολοπισθῆναι of the crucifixion of S. Peter (H. E. II. xxv. 5). The translation ‘stake’ is therefore strongly advocated by some. Tertullian so understood it; he has sudes twice (de Fuga in Pers. 2; de Pudic. 13); but in neither place does he translate τῇ σαρκί. The translator of Irenaeus (V. iii. 1) and Cyprian (Test. iii. 6; de Mortal. 13) have the ambiguous stimulus carnis, which is adopted in the Vulgate. Luther has Pfahl ins Fleisch, Beza surculus infixus carni, Calvin stimulus carni, metaphora a bobus sumpta. “A stake driven through the flesh” is Lightfoot’s interpretation in his essay at the end of Galatians 4 Stanley (ad loc.) and Ramsay (St Paul, p. 97) agree with this. But Alford, Conybeare and Howson, Findlay, Heinrici, Krenkel, Meyer, F. W. Robertson, Schaff, and Schmiedel abide by the usual rendering ‘thorn.’ Field (Otium Norvicense, iii. p. 115) says that “there is no doubt that the Alexandrine use of σκόλοψ for ‘thorn’ is here intended, and that the ordinary meaning of ‘stake’ must be rejected.” He quotes Babrius (Fab. 122); ὄνος πατήσας σκόλοπα χωλὸς εἱστήκει. The ass asks a wolf to help him,—ἐκ τοῦ ποδός μου τὴν ἄκανθαν εἰρύσας. Farrar combines the two ideas, when he speaks of the “impalement of his health by this wounding splinter” (St Paul, I. p. 221). But, whichever translation be adopted, it is the idea of acuteness rather than of size that seems to be dominant; and it is not improbable that the Apostle has Numbers 33:55 in his mind, when he uses the expression.

‘Thorn for the flesh’ is plainly metaphorical. What does the metaphor mean? The answers to this question have varied greatly; and, on the whole, particular kinds of answers have prevailed at different periods or in different parts of the Church. But the earliest traditions and latest explanations are so far in agreement that they all take this grievous trial of the Apostle to be physical suffering of some kind. It is commonly assumed that, in attempting to determine the nature of the σκόλοψ τῇ σαρκί, Galatians 4:13-14, which was written about the same time as this letter, must be combined with this passage as referring to the same ἀσθένεια. But it ought to be borne in mind that this is not certain; and that it is possible that the earliest traditions may be right about the σκόλοψ, while one of the modern hypotheses may be right about Galatians 4:13-14. From 2 Corinthians 12:7 we learn that the infliction was so acute as to be fitly called σκόλοψ, and so distressing and disabling to the Apostle’s work as to be clearly the work of Satan; also that it was recurrent, as the tense of κολαφίζῃ implies, and connected with the revelations granted to him, in that it was a humiliating antidote to spiritual pride. In this last connexion it may be compared with Jacob’s lameness after wrestling with (the angel of) Jehovah; and Jerome (Ep. xxxix. 2) compares it to the slave behind the triumphal car of the victorious general, whispering constantly, Hominem te esse memento. From Galatians 4:13-14 we learn that the weakness of the flesh there spoken of was so severe as to detain him in Galatia, and that its effects were such as to tempt the Galatians (τὸν πειρασμὸν ὑμῶν) to regard him with contempt (ἐξουθενήσατε) and disgust (ἐξεπτύσατε), a temptation which they triumphantly overcame. Beyond this all is uncertainty. The tradition that he was afflicted with agonizing pains in the head will fit 2 Corinthians 12:7, but not Galatians 4:13-14, for there is nothing in such suffering which would be likely to excite contempt or disgust. Three conjectures of modern commentators will fit both passages, but perhaps should be reserved for Galatians 4:13-14; these are epilepsy (Lightfoot, Schaff, Krenkel, Findlay), acute ophthalmia (Farrar, Lewin, Plumptre), and malarial fever (Ramsay). Of these three the first fulfils the conditions best. For details and for other views see Appendix C.

ἄγγελος Σατανᾶ. An angel of Satan (see on 2 Corinthians 2:16), or a messenger of Satan. Comp. Luke 13:16. This is in apposition to σκόλοψ, which is thus personified. With the reading Σατάν (see critical note), which may be nominative, some would render ‘the angel Satan’ or ‘a hostile angel.’ Against the former is the absence of the article; against the latter the fact that in the N.T. Σατανᾶς is always a proper name. Wiclif and the Rhemish, following the Vulgate, angelus satanae, have ‘angel of Satan’; other English Versions have ‘messenger.’ The idea of Satan having angels was familiar to the Jews (Matthew 12:24 = Luke 11:15). The Epistle of Barnabas (xviii. 1) in describing the Two Ways says, ἐφʼ ἦς εἰσιν τεταγμένοι φωταγωγοὶ ἄγγελοι τοῦ θεοῦ, ἐφʼ ἦς δὲ ἄγγελοι τοῦ Σατανᾶ: Enoch (liii. 3) says, ‘I have seen the angels of punishment preparing all the instruments of Satan’ (comp. xl. 7; lvi. 1): it is their special function ‘to bring judgment and destruction on all who dwell on the earth’ (lxvi. 1). In the Book of Jubilees, the date of which is B.C. 135–105, the demons under Mastêmâ (= ὁ Σατανᾶς in derivation and meaning), lead astray, blind, and kill the grandchildren of Noah (x. 2); Mastêmâ helps the Egyptian magicians, and stirs up the Egyptians to pursue Israel (xlviii. 9, 12). Whereas in Exodus 4:24 it is stated that the Lord sought to kill Moses for not circumcising his son, in Jubilees it is Mastêmâ who seeks to slay Moses and thus save the Egyptians from divine vengeance (xlviii. 2, 3). Comp. Satan moving David to number Israel (1 Chronicles 21:1) with the Lord moving David to do this (2 Samuel 24:1). Here the σκόλοψ is given by God, but is at the same time an angel of Satan. The idea of Satan inflicting suffering is as old as the Book of Job (2 Corinthians 1:12, 2 Corinthians 2:6) and appears in the N.T. in Luke 13:16; and his inflicting disciplinary suffering appears 1 Corinthians 5:4-5 (see Goudge ad loc.); 1 Timothy 1:20. Comp. 2 Corinthians 2:11; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 2:18; 1 Timothy 3:6-7; 2 Timothy 2:26. The doctrine, that Satan has angels, appears in Scripture (Revelation 12:7; Revelation 12:9) and is confirmed by Christ Himself (Matthew 25:41). Such beings inflict in malice the sufferings which God intends to be disciplinary. Est autem angelus a Deo missus seu permissus, sed Satanae, quia Satanae intentio est ut subvertat, Dei vero, ut humiliet et probatum reddat (Thomas Aquinas). Assuming that the malady in Galatia was the σκόλοψ, it is remarkable that, when the Apostle was being buffeted by the ἄγγελος Σαρανᾶ, the Galatians received him ὡς ἄγγελον θεοῦ (Galatians 4:14): but it is not clear that the Apostle means to mark any such contrast.

ἵνα με κολαφίξῃ. In order that he may buffet me. The nom. is ἅγγελος Σ. For κολαφίζῃ means ‘strike with the fist’ (1 Corinthians 4:11; 1 Peter 2:20; Matthew 26:67; Mark 14:65), and this would not harmonize with σκόλοψ. If he had still been thinking of the σκόλοψ, he could have said περιπείρῃ (1 Timothy 6:10). The present tense, as Chrysostom points out, indicates a recurrence of the attacks; οὐχ ἵνα ἅπαξ με κολαφίσῃ (Theodoret), ἀλλὰ πολλάκις. The verb is late Greek and probably colloquial. It is perhaps chosen, rather than πυκτεύειν or ὑπωπιάζειν (1 Corinthians 9:26-27) or κονδυλίζειν (Amos 2:7; Malachi 3:5), in order to mark the treatment of a slave. In the last section of the Apocolocyntosis or Ludus de Morte Claudii of Seneca we find; Apparuit subito C. Caesar, et petere ilium in servitutem coepit: producit testes qui ilium viderent ab illo flagris, ferulis, colaphis vapulantem; adjudicatur C. Caesari.

ἵνα μὴ ὑπεραίρωμαι. The repetition (see critical note) is for emphasis, and to prevent a misunderstanding of ἵνα με κολαφίζῃ: comp. Revelation 2:5. We do not know whether the connexion was so close that after every special revelation there was an attack of the painful malady, but this may have been the case; and the excitement of the revelation might predispose him for such seizures. All that is certain is that there were revelations likely to produce spiritual pride, and painful attacks designed to counteract this. See Augustine’s letter to Paulinus and Therasia (Ep. xcv. 2).

Verse 8

8. ὑπὲρ τούτου. Not propter quod (Vulgate), nor super quod (Beza); but super hoc, sc. hoc hoste: the τούτου is masc. and refers to ἄγγ. Σ. This is rendered almost certain by ἵνα ἀποστῇ, a verb which in the N.T. is used of persons only: comp. especially Luke 4:13; Acts 12:10, and see Chase, The Lord’s Prayer in the Early Church, p. 114. Both A.V. and R.V. have ‘this thing,’ and neither has ‘thing’ in italics. With this use of ὑπέρ = ‘concerning’ comp. 2 Thessalonians 2:1; 2 Corinthians 7:4; 2 Corinthians 7:14 : also multa super Priamo rogitans, super Hectore multa (Virg. Aen. I. 750). Concerning this foe, or concerning him, is the meaning.

τρίς. To be understood literally. Had S. Paul meant πολλάκις (Chrysostom, Calvin), he would have said πολλάκις, or used a larger number. Ter, ut ipse Dominus in monte Oliveti (Bengel). He prayed twice, and received no answer. He prayed a third time, and the answer here reported was given. After this he considered that it would be disloyal to pray to have the trouble removed. We may surmise that he would not have prayed in this way to be free from persecution: persecution was the law of such a life as his. Not much is gained by trying to find the three occasions to which the Apostle here alludes; but it is probable that an attack following the Rapture was one of them. In Acts 16:6-10 we have three special intimations of God’s will respecting the Apostle’s movements, and it has been proposed to connect these with the τρίς here: but the connexion is not probable.

τὸν κύριον. Christ, as is shown by ἡ δύναμις τοῦ χριστοῦ (2 Corinthians 12:9)

παρεκάλεσα. The verb is frequent in Scripture of beseeching or exhorting men (2 Corinthians 2:8, 2 Corinthians 6:1, 2 Corinthians 8:6, 2 Corinthians 9:5, &c.), but not of praying to God. Josephus uses it of prayer to God (Ant. VI. ii. 2). But its use in the Gospels of those who besought Christ for help (Matthew 8:5; Matthew 14:36; Mark 1:40; Mark 8:22; Luke 7:4; Luke 8:41, &c.) is the true analogy: it implies the Apostle’s personal communication (Stanley) with the Lord. To suppose that S. Paul uses this word in order to indicate that Christ is man and not God, is quite out of place.

Verse 9

9. καὶ εἴρηκέν μοι. And he hath said to me. The force of the perfect is that the reply then given still holds good; it remains in force: comp. Hebrews 1:13; Hebrews 4:3-4; Hebrews 10:9; Hebrews 10:13; Hebrews 13:5; Acts 13:34; and γέγραπται,—ὃ γέγραφα, γέγραφα, κ.τ.λ.

Ἀρκεῖ σοι ἡ χάρις μου. This implies the refusal of the request, for ‘is sufficient’ means ‘sufficient without the relief prayed for.’ But something better than relief is promised,—the grace to endure: comp. 1 Corinthians 15:10. Frequenter quae putamus prospera obsunt. Ideo non conceduntur, Deo melius providente (Primasius). Note the chiasmus between ἁρκεῖ and τελεῖται: see on 2 Corinthians 2:16.

ἡ γὰρ δύναμις ἐν ἀσθενείᾳ τελεῖται. See critical note. The μου would never have been struck out, had it been genuine: it might easily be inserted, either accidentally from ἡ χάρις μου, or deliberately, to lessen the paradox. The saying is more forcible without the limitation, ‘Where there is weakness, power reaches completeness.’ It is when man can do nothing, that divine power is perfectly recognized. Where man can do much, the fallacy of cum hoc, ergo propter hoc may come in, and the effects of divine power may be attributed to man’s efforts. Comp. 2 Corinthians 4:7, 2 Corinthians 13:4, 1 Corinthians 1:25; 1 Corinthians 2:3-4. Bede is fond of applying this principle; comp. H. E. iv. 9, 21. It is idle to ask in what way this χρηματισμός was conveyed to the Apostle. As on the road to Damascus, he spoke to the Lord as present, and received an intelligible reply. For the difference between the readings τελεῖται and τελειοῦται comp. πάντα τετέλεσται ἵνα τελειωθῇ ἡ γραφή (John 19:28). Both verbs are frequent in the LXX. and are used to translate the same Hebrew words. In Sirach 7:25 readings vary, as here, between the two.

Ἥδιστα οὖν μᾶλλον καυχήσομαι ἐν ταῖς ἀσθενείαις. Here the verses should have been divided: there is a pause after τελεῖται. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses. The οὖν means ‘in consequence of this gracious answer.’ We must not take μᾶλλον with ἥδιστα: μᾶλλον is often used to strengthen a comparative (see Wetstein on Philippians 1:23), while μάλιστα is used, but less often, to strengthen a superlative; comp. especially μάλιστα φίλτατος (Hom. Il. XXIV. 334; Eur. Hipp. 1421). Nor must μᾶλλον be taken with ἐν τ. ἀσθενείαις: ‘in my weaknesses rather than in my achievements, or in the revelations made to me,’ for which he would have written μᾶλλον ἐν τ. ἀσθ. μου καυχήσομαι. The μᾶλλον belongs to the whole sentence, but chiefly to καυχήσομαι: ‘I will rather glory in my weaknesses’; than what? That is determined by what precedes, viz. his prayers for relief. ‘Most joyously, therefore, will I glory in my weaknesses, rather than ask to be freed from them’ is the meaning. So Irenaeus (V. iii. 1); libenter ergo magis gloriabor in infirmitatibus. The Vulgate omits magis. Winer, p. 300.

ἵνα ἐπισκηνώσῃ ἑπʼ ἐμὲ ἡ δύναμις τοῦ χριστοῦ. That the power of the Christ may tabernacle upon me, or spread a tent over me. Polybius uses the verb of the billeting or quartering of soldiers. It occurs nowhere else in Biblical Greek, and may perhaps be intended to suggest the Shechinah. Here ‘on-dwelling’ and ‘in-dwelling’ are closely connected (comp. Luke 1:35; Luke 3:22; Luke 4:1; Acts 1:8; Acts 2:3-4); but S. Paul may prefer the idea of ‘on-dwelling’ because the other would seem to diminish the measure of his weakness. With the pregnant constr. comp. John 1:32; John 3:36; John 19:13; Luke 21:37; Genesis 1:2. The rendering of ἡ δύναμις must be the same in both places; but the A.V. has first ‘strength’ and then ‘power,’ while the first editions of the R.V. had first ‘power’ and then ‘strength.’ See on δυνατός in 2 Corinthians 12:10.

Verse 10

10. διὸ εὐδοκῶ ἐν ἀσθ. Wherefore (because Christ’s strength is most plainly manifested in weakness) I am well pleased in weaknesses. With εὐδοκῶ comp. 2 Corinthians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 2:8; 1 Thessalonians 3:1), and with εὐδ. ἐν comp. 1 Corinthians 5:5; Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5.

ἐν ὕβρεσιν, ἐν ἀνάγκαις, κ.τ.λ. See critical note. Only here and Acts 27:10; Acts 27:21 is ὕβρις found in the N.T., while in the LXX., as in classical Greek, it is very frequent. For the plural comp. Sirach 10:8. In all three places ‘injury’ is the best translation: but the word implies wanton infliction of injury, just because it pleases one to inflict it; it is insolent maltreatment. Its use in Acts of the storm is metaphorical: comp. Joseph. Ant. III. vi. 4. Similarly, ὑβριστής is rare in the N.T. (Romans 1:30; 1 Timothy 1:13), but frequent in the LXX. Comp. ὑβρίζειν (1 Timothy 2:2; Acts 14:5; Matthew 22:6; Luke 11:45; Luke 18:32). This word and the three plurals which follow are special kinds of ἀσθένειαι. For διωγμοῖς comp. 2 Thessalonians 1:4; 2 Timothy 3:11; for στενοχωρίαις see on 2 Corinthians 6:4; for the asyndeton comp. 2 Corinthians 11:13; 2 Corinthians 11:20, 2 Corinthians 13:11.

ὑπὲρ Χριστοῦ. To be taken with εὐδοκῶ. It is for Christ’s sake that he is well pleased in weaknesses: comp. 2 Corinthians 5:20; also ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ (Matthew 5:11), and ἕνεκεν τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου (Luke 6:22). To take ὑπὲρ Χρ. with ἑν ὕβρεσιν κ.τ.λ. has less point; it might be assumed that these things were endured for Christ’s sake; but taking pleasure in them is more than endurance, and the Apostle adds the motive which enabled him to do that. Comp. ἑμοὶ γὰρ τὸ ζῆν Χριστός (Philippians 1:21).

ὅταν γὰρ ἀσθενῶ, τότε δυνατός εἰμι. For whenever I am weak, then I am strong. The translation of δυνατός should correspond with that of δύναμις in 2 Corinthians 12:9; for it is through the δύναμις τοῦ χρ. that he is δυνατός. Therefore, if ‘strength’ there, ‘strong’ here; and if ‘power’ there, ‘powerful’ here.

The paradox sums up the Apostle’s estimate of his own achievements. From the special ἀσθένεια of the σκόλοψ he has slipped back to the catalogue of τὰ τῆς ἀσθενείας (2 Corinthians 11:23-30); and this is the triumphant cry with which the paragraph concludes: it is precisely when he is weak that he is strong. At such times he feels, and others see, that he is weak: and he knows, and they know, what he accomplishes in spite of the weakness. There can, therefore, be no mistake as to the source of the strength. Christ’s strength, in His minister’s weakness, τελεῖται. Augustine (Conf. X. iii. 4) reverses this: dulcedine gratiae Tuae, qua potens est omnia infirmus, qui sibi per ipsam fit conscius infirmitatis suae. It is not the grace that makes him conscious of his own weakness, but his weakness which makes him conscious of the grace.

Pliny tells us that the sickness of a friend taught him that we are at our best when we are ill. The sick man is not troubled by his passions, or about honours and possessions which he is soon to leave; he remembers the gods, and that he himself is a man; invidet nemini, neminem miratur, neminem despicit, ac ne sermonibus quiden malignis aut attendit, aut alitur (Ep. 7:26).


Verse 11

11. The Apostle pauses and looks back at what he has been saying in this most distasteful contest with his opponents, as to whether they or he had better reasons for glorying. He had begged the Corinthians not to think him a fool; or at any rate to give him not less attention than they would give to a fool (2 Corinthians 11:16). Now that he considers what he has been driven to say, he admits that he has become a fool.

Γέγονα ἄφρων. The verb is emphatic: ‘it has come to pass that I am’; ‘I have proved to be’; ‘I verily am become.’ The words are certainly not a question; nor are they concessive, ‘suppose that I am become.’ And perhaps they are not an ironical adoption of his critics’ point of view. He admits that he has really been acting foolishly in this glorying. (But the καυχώμενος of the Rec. is an obvious gloss: see critical note.) Receptui canit, says Bengel; but, although he draws to a close, there is no retreat or retraction: Γέγονα ἄφρων might possibly mean ‘I have done making a fool of myself’: comp. Revelation 16:17; Revelation 21:6. See Blass § 82. 9.

ὑμεῖς με ἠναγκάσατε· ἐγὼ γὰρ ὤφειλον κ.τ.λ. Both nominatives and ὑμῶν are very emphatic: ‘you compelled me (it was not my choice); for I (not my adversaries) ought to have been commended by you.’ He would never have been driven to this folly of glorying, if the Corinthians had supported him loyally. Could S. Paul have written this reproach, ὤφειλον ὑφʼ ὑμῶν συνίστασθαι, in the same letter in which he had told them, ἡ ἐπιστολὴ ἡμῶν [συστατικὴ] ὑμεῖς ἐστὲ (2 Corinthians 3:2)? Assume that the reproach was made in an earlier letter, before they had submitted, and that 2 Corinthians 3:2 was written after they had submitted, and then all is consistent. While δεῖ (2 Corinthians 5:10) points to the nature of things or a divine decree, ὀφείλειν (here and 2 Corinthians 12:14) expresses a special personal obligation of the nature of a debt (Luke 17:10). See Westcott on 1 John 2:6.

τῶν ὑπερλίαν ἀποστόλων. See on 2 Corinthians 11:5. Here it seems to be still more clear that ‘the super-extra apostles’ refers sarcastically to the hostile teachers, not literally to any of the Twelve. Bat there are some who doubt whether S. Paul would have condescended to say that he was not at all inferior to the Judaizing teachers. The aor. ὑστέρησα, in nothing was I behind, refers to the time when the Apostle was in Corinth. The γάρ means, ‘you could have commended me with perfect sincerity and justice.’ With the tone comp. Galatians 2:6.

εἰ καὶ οὐδὲν εἰμι. It is possible, with Tyndale and Coverdale, to take this clause with what follows; but all other English Versions agree with the Vulgate and the Reformers in taking it with what precedes. He is not claiming to be anything, when he asserts that he was not inferior to his opponents. That he was οὐδέν may have been a phrase of theirs. For εἰ καί comp. 2 Corinthians 7:8, and for οὐδὲν εἶναι comp. 1 Corinthians 13:2; Galatians 6:3.

Verse 12

12. τὰ μὲν σημεῖα τοῦ ἀποστόλου κατειργάσθη ἐν ὑμῖν. Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought out (2 Corinthians 4:17, 2 Corinthians 5:5, 2 Corinthians 7:10, 2 Corinthians 9:11) among you. He does not say κατειργασάμην, because he himself is οὐδέν. His contribution to the result is expressed by ἐν πάσῃ ὑπομονῇ (2 Corinthians 1:6, 2 Corinthians 6:4), by which ‘endurance under persecution’ is specially meant. See Mayor on James 1:3, and comp. Luke 21:19. The endurance is his; all the rest is God’s work, and it is the latter which forms the evidence of his Apostleship. The μέν anticipates a coming δέ, which is forgotten in dictating. The τοῦ is generic: ejus qui sit apostolus (Bengel); comp. ὥσπερ ὁ ἐθνικὸς καὶ ὁ τελώνης (Matthew 18:17).

σημείοις [τε] καὶ τέρασιν καὶ δυνάμεσιν. See critical note. The combination σημεῖα καὶ τέρατα is very frequent in Gospels and Acts, as in the LXX., and τέρατα καὶ σ. is not rare. In Hebrews 2:4 we have σ. τε καὶ τ., as possibly here. The threefold enumeration is found there and Acts 2:22, as here: comp. 2 Thessalonians 2:9; Romans 15:19. “The passage is of deep interest, as chewing the unquestioned reality of miraculous gifts in the early Church” (Westcott on Hebrews 2:4). We have similar evidence in 1 Corinthians 10:8-11; 1 Corinthians 14:18-19; Romans 15:18-19; Galatians 3:5. Every one of the great Epistles of S. Paul bears witness to this fact. “It is simply impossible that evidence of this kind for the special purpose for which it is adduced should be otherwise than true. It is given quite incidentally; it is not didactic, i.e. it is no part of an argument the object of which is to produce a belief in miracles; it refers to notorious matter of fact, to fact equally notorious for S. Paul himself and for those to whom he is writing; it shews … that he could appeal to it without fear of being challenged” (Sanday, Church Congress paper, 1902). In the N.T. supernatural works are often called σημεῖα without τέρατα, especially by S. John (John 2:11; John 2:23; John 3:2; John 4:54, &c.), but never τέρατα without σημεῖα. The quotation from Joel 3:3 in Acts 2:19 is the nearest approach to such a separation. Miracles are never mere ‘wonders’ (prodigia); they are divine ‘tokens’ (signa), and products of divine power (virtutes). While the Vulgate is consistent in its rendering of δυνάμεις, the A.V. is very capricious; ‘mighty deeds’ (here), ‘wonderful works’ (Matthew 8:22), ‘mighty works’ (Matthew 11:20), ‘miracles’ (Galatians 3:5). The last two are most frequent. Trench, Syn. § xci.

Verse 13

13. The Corinthians had had the distinction of these miracles and supernatural gifts; and in nothing had any Church been more honoured. In nothing,—with one possible exception: he had never taken from them either maintenance or reward. Yet this very thing, which ought to have earned their gratitude, had been urged against him as a reproach. So he sarcastically, or perhaps playfully, states this exceptional benefit to them as if it were an injury, and asks their forgiveness for it.

τὶ γάρ ἐστιν …; For what is there wherein ye were made inferior to the rest of the Churches, except it be that I myself was not a burden (see on 2 Corinthians 11:9) to you? Forgive me this wrong. Note that in this letter there is no mention of the Church as a whole: except 2 Corinthians 1:1, ἐκκλησία̇ is always in the plural (2 Corinthians 8:1; 2 Corinthians 8:18-19; 2 Corinthians 8:23-24, 2 Corinthians 11:8; 2 Corinthians 11:28), and the Churches are local Churches. In 2 Corinthians 1:1 ‘the Church of God’ is expressly limited to Corinth. Here, as in 2 Corinthians 11:8, the mention of other Churches shows that he is addressing the Corinthian Church as a whole, and not a mere party in it. The αὐτὸς ἐγώ (comp. 2 Corinthians 10:1) perhaps implies that his colleagues did not all refuse maintenance. For ὑπέρ = ‘beyond’ after words implying comparison comp. Galatians 1:14; Luke 16:8; Hebrews 4:12; Sirach 30:17. On ἡσσώθητε see critical note and WH. App. p. 166: comp. Hdt. 7:146. 2, 8:75, 1. For χαρίσασθε comp. 2 Corinthians 2:10; Colossians 2:13.

Verse 14

14. Ἰδοὺ τρίτον τοῦτο ἑτοίμως ἔχω ἐλθεῖν πρὸς ὑμᾶς. Behold this is the third time I am ready to come to you. The τοῦτο is too well attested to be an insertion from 2 Corinthians 13:1 (see critical note), and τρίτον τοῦτο is acc. absol. Comp. πέπαικάς με τοῦτο τρίτον (Numbers 22:28); τοῦτο τρίτον ἐπλάνησάς με (Judges 16:15): also John 21:15. Grammatically τρίτον τοῦτο can be taken with either ἑτοίμως ἔχω or ἐλθεῖν. The fact that ἑτοίμως ἔχω comes between is no bar to the combination with ἐλθεῖν: in Acts 21:13, the only other example in the N.T. (comp. 1 Peter 4:5), ἑτοίμως ἔχω comes between ἀποθανεῖν and ὑπὲρ τοῦ ὀνὸματος. See Krenkel, Beiträge, p. 185, for other illustrations. From 2 Corinthians 13:1 it is clear that here S. Paul means that he is preparing to pay a third visit, not that for the third time he is making preparation. The second visit was the short one ἐν λύπῃ: see note on 2 Corinthians 2:1, Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, p. 274, and Conybeare and Howson, chap. 15. The phrase ἑτοίμως ἔχω is found in the Fayyûm documents of the time of Marcus Aurelius; always, as here, with the infin. (Deissmann, Bible Studies, p. 252). The emphasis is on τρίτον, and hence the order: the usual order is τοῦτο τρίτον (see above), which D reads here. Comp. τέταρτον δὴ τοῦτο ἐπὶ τὴν Ἀττικὴν ἀπικὸμενοι Δωριέες (Hdt. 5:76. 1), where τέτ. is emphatic.

καὶ οὐ καταναρκήσω. For the third time (2 Corinthians 12:13, 2 Corinthians 11:9) he uses this strange expression; ‘will not numb’, wilt not be a burden. From his harping on it we may conjecture that it was the very word used by his opponents. Here the ὑμῶν is an insertion: see critical note. The Revisers omit ὑμῶν from their text, but do not print ‘to you’ in italics.

οὐ γὰρ ζητῶ τὰ ὑμῶν ἀλλὰ ὑμᾶς. His aim is to win their souls for Christ, not their wealth for himself. Comp. me igitur ipsum ames oportet, non mea, si veri amici futuri sumus (Cic. de Fin. II. 26). They had hinted that it was because he did not care for them that he took nothing from them (2 Corinthians 11:11): he says that he cares too much about them to care for their possessions. For his other reasons for refusing maintenance see on 2 Corinthians 11:7-15. By ζητῶ ὑμᾶς he does not mean that he wants them for himself, as followers or friends: why he seeks them was stated 2 Corinthians 11:2. They had blamed him for taking no reward. He says, ‘I want a much larger reward than you think, I want yourselves’: vos quaero totos, ut sacrificium ex ministerii mei proventu Domino offeram (Calvin). ‘I seek greater things; souls instead of goods; instead of gold, salvation’ (Chrysostom). In support of this he calls them ‘children’ rather than ‘disciples.’ Comp. 2 Corinthians 8:5.

οὐ γὰρ ὀφείλει. οὐ γὰρ ὀφείλει ldren (1 Corinthians 4:14-15; comp. Galatians 4:19); and it was rather his place to provide spiritual blessings for them, than for them to provide temporal blessings for him. Of course he does not mean that it is wrong for children to support their parents, but that the normal obligation is for parents to support their children. He allowed his Philippian children to supply his needs. Not unfrequently one of two alternatives is in form excluded, not as being really forbidden, but to show the superiority of the other alternative: comp. Luke 10:20; Luke 14:12; Luke 23:28; Hosea 6:6. For θησαυρίζειν comp. Matthew 6:19-21.

Verses 14-18

14–18. He changes from irony to affectionate earnestness, telling them that he must continue the ἀδικία of working for nothing, and explaining why this must be so. It is still quite evident that he is addressing the whole Corinthian Church. See note on 2 Corinthians 11:2.

Verse 15

15. ἐγὼ δὲ ἥδιστα δαπανήσω καὶ ἐκδαπανηθήσομαι. But I will most gladly (2 Corinthians 12:9) spend and be spent utterly (be wholly spent) for your souls. Strong emphasis on ἐγώ: all parents should provide for their children; but he will do more. He will spend his possessions and spend himself also to the uttermost, to save their souls. ‘For you’ (A.V.) is much too vague for ὑπὲρ τῶν ψυχῶν ὑμῶν. “The writer chooses this fuller phrase in place of the simple ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν to suggest the manifold sum of vital powers which the Christian has to make his own: Luke 21:19” (Westcott on Hebrews 13:17, which illustrates this passage). S. Paul here uses ψυχὴ for the whole of man’s inner nature or true life, which is its common meaning in Greek philosophy, in Gospels and Acts, and in 1 Peter. He is not using it here for a special faculty of man’s immaterial nature distinct from πνεῦμα or νοῦς (1 Corinthians 15:45-46; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; comp. 1 Corinthians 14:14-15). See Hort, and Bigg, on 1 Peter 1:9; also Hatch, Biblical Greek, pp. 101, 113, 130; and, for S. Paul’s self-sacrifice, Philippians 2:17; Romans 9:3. Comp. animaeque magnae prodigum Paulum (Hor. Od. I. xii. 36). The rare comp. ἐκδαπανᾷν, ‘to spend to the last farthing,’ occurs here only in Biblical Greek. It occurs Joseph. Ant. XV. 2 Corinthians 12:1, and in Polybius. ‘I will spend my substance and the last fragment of myself for your salvation.’

εἰ περισσοτέρως ὑμᾶς ἀγαπῶ, ἦσσον ἀγαπῶμαι; See critical note. The καί after εἰ should certainly be omitted: whether the sentence depends upon what precedes, or should be independent and interrogative, is more doubtful: comp. 2 Corinthians 12:19, 2 Corinthians 10:7. Both arrangements make good sense; but the latter is more vigorous. If I love you more abundantly, am I loved the less? This is not an instance of εἰ introducing a direct question, as in Luke 13:23; Luke 22:49; Acts 1:6; Acts 19:2; &c. The εἰ belongs to the first clause only, not to the sentence. ‘If I show my special love for you by working among you for nothing, are you going to allow that very thing to estrange you from me?’

Verse 16

16. Ἔστω δέ. But be it so. ‘You will say, We grant all that: we admit that you did not yourself take money from us, but you were cunning enough to get it out of us through others.’ This use of ἔστω is not found elsewhere in the N.T. In Plato’s dialogues we sometimes have ἔστω, when one side grants what the other states (Gory. 516 c), but it is not common.

οὐ κατεβάρησα ὑμᾶς. The verb is late, and occurs nowhere else in Biblical Greek, καταβαρύνειν (Mark 14:40 and LXX.) being more common. In Mark 14:40 καταβεβαρημένοι (א) is one of many variants. The ἐγώ is emphatic; I did not myself burden you; ‘but I got others to do it.’ There was no limit to the insinuations of his opponents.

ἀλλὰ ὑπάρχων πανοῦργος. But being crafty; ‘being in character thoroughly unscrupulous.’ This is not his admission about himself, and it ought never to be quoted as stating a principle which has apostolic authority. It is what his critics have said of him. The ὑπάρχων (2 Corinthians 8:17; Galatians 1:14; Galatians 2:14) indicates that he had all along been regarded as a person of bad character: πανοῦργος, frequent in Psalms and Ecclus, occurs here only in the N.T.; but comp. 2 Corinthians 4:2, 2 Corinthians 11:3. His craftiness consisted in professing to preserve his independence by refusing payment, while he set other people to fleece them.

ἔλαβον. A hunting or fishing metaphor: see on λαμβάνει (2 Corinthians 11:20). For δόλῳ λαβεῖν comp. Soph. Phil. 101, 107.

Verse 17

17. Did I by means of any one of those whom I have sent unto you, take advantage (2 Corinthians 2:11, 2 Corinthians 12:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:6) of you, by getting money out of you? The ἀπέσταλκα, as distinct from πέπομφα, implies the sending on a permanent mission.

Verse 17-18

17, 18. By a series of rapid questions (comp. 2 Corinthians 6:14-16, 2 Corinthians 11:22) he shows how baseless the insinuation is. In his eager refutation of the slander he breaks the construction, and leaves the opening τινα without a verb to govern it.

Verse 18

18. παρεκάλεσα Τίτον. I exhorted Titus, and I sent with him the (see on 2 Corinthians 2:16) brother. This cannot refer to the mission of Titus alluded to in 2 Corinthians 2:13, 2 Corinthians 7:6; 2 Corinthians 7:13; nor to the one mentioned in 2 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 8:17-18; 2 Corinthians 8:22. There may have been another mission before the painful letter (of which these four chapters seem to be a part) was written. But, whatever view we take of 10–13, the mission of Titus mentioned in 2 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 8:17-18; 2 Corinthians 8:22 cannot be meant here; for when 8 was written, Titus had not yet started. Nor is it credible that the mission of Titus alluded to in 2 Corinthians 2:13, 2 Corinthians 7:6; 2 Corinthians 7:13 can be meant. That was the mission to quell the rebellion in Corinth, a task in which Titus succeeded. But S. Paul would never have complicated so difficult a matter as that by combining with it an attempt to raise money. Of course, if we believe that 10–13 is part of the painful letter, the mission of Titus to quell the revolt cannot be referred to here; for, when the painful letter was written, Titus had not started on that mission. Everything runs smoothly if we suppose three missions of Titus to Corinth; an early one, in which he and one brother started the collection for the Palestine fund, which seems to be alluded to in καθὼς προενήρξατο (2 Corinthians 8:6), and which is alluded to here; a second, in which he supported the Apostle’s painful letter, and won back the Corinthians to their allegiance (2 Corinthians 2:13, 2 Corinthians 7:6; 2 Corinthians 7:13); a third, in which he and two brethren were to complete the collection (2 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 8:17-18; 2 Corinthians 8:22). Here τὸν ἀδελφόν means ‘the brother whom you remember.’ In none of the missions did Titus go alone.

μήτι ἐπλεονέκτησεν ὑμᾶς Τίτος; Did Titus take any advantage of you? This does not imply that the Corinthians had accused Titus of sharp practice: rather the contrary. The Apostle’s argument is this: ‘You admit that I took nothing from you myself; but you suspect some of my agents of taking. Can you mention one who did so? Did Titus, my chief agent, do so?’ Evidently S. Paul knows that they had not accused Titus of this. Then the rest of the argument follows. ‘Did not he and I always walk in the same spirit, the same steps? If his hands are clean, so are mine.’

This fits in with the theory of three missions of Titus. In the first he won their confidence, and therefore was sent on the very difficult second mission and the rather delicate matter of the third mission. And, if 10–13 is part of the painful letter, the passage before us was written between the first and second mission, when the good impression was fresh. It is quite possible that at his first mission to Corinth Titus was the bearer of 1 Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 16:12 we read ‘of the brethren’ who are to carry the letter. These brethren may be Titus and ‘the brother’ mentioned here: see Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, p. 181.

For μήτι interrogative comp. 2 Corinthians 1:17. The change to οὐ interrogative is the change from num to nonne: comp. Luke 6:39.

τῷ αὐτῷ πνεύματι. The coupling with τοῖς αὐτοῖς ἴχνεσιν tends to show that this means that he and Titus were animated by the same thought and intention, rather than that they were directed by the same Holy Spirit. Comp. Philippians 1:27. But the R.V. has by the same Spirit. ‘Spirit’ indicates the inward principle, ‘steps’ the external conduct. There is probably no reference to the steps of Christ (1 Peter 2:21). Comp. Pind. Pyth. x. 25; Nem. vi. 27.

This verse renders it improbable that Timothy ever reached Corinth; otherwise he would probably have been mentioned here. It is often supposed that he reached Corinth, and that his mission was a failure; but this is an uncertain hypothesis. He and Erastus were sent to Macedonia (Acts 19:21-22) before 1 Cor. was written, and Timothy was instructed to go on to Corinth (1 Corinthians 4:17). All that we know is that, when 2 Cor. was written from Macedonia, Timothy was there with the Apostle (2 Corinthians 1:1). He may have gone to Corinth and have returned ἀδικηθείς (2 Corinthians 7:12) to Macedonia. More probably he remained in Macedonia till S. Paul’s arrival, either because the news from Corinth was so unfavourable, or because there was so much to do in Macedonia. Titus, not Timothy, brings the news about Corinth (2 Corinthians 2:13, 2 Corinthians 7:6-7). S. Luke says nothing about Timothy’s having reached Corinth, which probably means that either he knew that he never reached Corinth, or at least had never heard that he did; and S. Paul himself seems to have had doubts whether Timothy would get as far as Corinth; ἐάν δὲ ἔλθῃ Τιμόθεος (1 Corinthians 16:10). “Combining the hint of the possible abandonment of the design in the First Epistle, the account of the journey to Macedonia in the Acts, and the silence maintained with regard to any visit to Corinth or any definite information received thence through Timotheus in the Second Epistle, we discover an ‘undesigned coincidence’ of a striking kind; and it is therefore a fair and reasonable conclusion that the visit was never paid” (Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, p. 280). The fact that Timothy is coupled with Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:1 does not explain the silence here. He is coupled with Paul in writing 1 Thessalonians, yet see 1 Thessalonians 3:2; 1 Thessalonians 3:6.

Verse 19

19. Πάλαι δοκεῖτε ὅτι ὑμῖν ἀπολογούμεθα; See critical note. All this time are you thinking that it is to you that I am making my defence? Almost all English Versions (except Wiclif and the R.V.) make the sentence a question; as also do Beza, Calvin and Luther: comp. 2 Corinthians 12:11; 2 Corinthians 12:15, and 2 Corinthians 10:7, where similar doubts may be raised. For πάλαι in the sense of ‘for some time past’ comp. ταῦτα καὶ θαυμάζων πάλαι ἐρωτῶ (Plat. Gorg. 456 A); also πάλαι ἡμεῖς, πρὶν καὶ σὲ παρελθεῖν, τυγχάνομεν λέγοντες (Phaedr. 273 c). Excepting this and Romans 2:15, ἀπολογεῖσθαι in the N.T. is peculiar to S. Luke (Luke 12:11; Luke 21:14; Acts 24:10, &c.). For the dat. comp. Acts 19:33.

κατὲναντι θεοῦ ἐν Χριστῷ λαλοῦμεν. It is in the sight of God that we speak in Christ. We have almost the same asseveration 2 Corinthians 2:17; comp. 2 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 1:23, 2 Corinthians 4:2, 2 Corinthians 5:11, 2 Corinthians 7:12, 2 Corinthians 11:11; 2 Corinthians 11:31; 1 Corinthians 2:15; 1 Corinthians 4:3-4. “This sense of saying and doing everything in the sight of God and in union with Christ, Who will avenge all deceit by unmasking the deceiver, is a characteristic of St Paul’s whole nature” (Lias).

τὰ δὲ πάντα, ἀγαπητοί, ὑπὲρ τῆς ὑμῶν οἰκοδομῆς. No verb: the A.V. supplies ‘we do,’ the R.V. ‘are.’ Perhaps ‘we speak,’ from the previous clause, is more probable than either. The affectionate statement softens the preceding words, and smooths the way for the sorrowful words that follow. This is the only ἀγαπητοί in the last four chapters, as that in 2 Corinthians 7:1 is the only one in the first nine. Once more it is plain that he is addressing all his converts at Corinth, not merely the recalcitrant minority. For οἰκοδομή comp. 2 Corinthians 10:8, 2 Corinthians 13:10. For ὑμῶν between the article and the noun, which is peculiar to S. Paul, comp. 2 Corinthians 1:6 (bis), 2 Corinthians 7:7 (ter), 15, 2 Corinthians 8:13-14, 2 Corinthians 13:9; 1 Corinthians 7:35; 1 Corinthians 9:12; 1 Corinthians 16:17 : in the last case the reading is doubtful.

Verses 19-21

19–21. He is not on his defence before the Corinthians: to God alone is he responsible. But all he says is for the good of the Corinthians, that a thorough reformation may take place before he comes.

Verse 20

20. His self-vindication is concluded, and he is now simply the Apostle speaking with solemnity and authority. So far from his having been on his defence before them, it is they who will have to be judged by him as to their conduct.

φοβοῦμαι γάρ. The γάρ looks back to τῆς ὑμῶν οἰκοδομῆς. They were in much need of being ‘built up,’ for they seem still to be grievously deficient in the first elements of the Christian life.

What follows seems to be quite inconsistent with a number of statements in the first nine chapters. ‘In your faith ye stand firm’ (2 Corinthians 1:24); ‘my joy is the joy of you all’ (2 Corinthians 2:3); ‘ye are an epistle of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 3:3); ‘great is my glorying on your behalf’ (2 Corinthians 7:4); ‘your zeal for me’ (2 Corinthians 7:7); ‘in everything ye approved yourselves to be pure in the matter’ (2 Corinthians 7:11); ‘he remembereth the obedience of you all’ (2 Corinthians 7:15); in everything I am of good courage concerning you’ (2 Corinthians 7:16); ‘ye abound in everything, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all earnestness, and in your love to us’ (2 Corinthians 8:7). These verses (20, 21) might easily precede chapters 1–9, especially in an earlier letter. But to write what has just been quoted from these nine chapters, and then, in the same letter, write the fears expressed in these two verses, seems strangely incongruous. What would the Corinthians think of one who could thus blow hot and cold in successive breaths?

As in 2 Corinthians 11:3, φοβοῦμαι, puts the matter gently, and πως (ignored in the A.V.) has a similar effect. For I fear, lest by any means, when I come, I should find you not such as I would, and I should be found by you such as ye would not. The negative gains in effect in the second clause by being transferred from οἷον to θέλετε: but, like φοβοῦμαι and πως, the negative manner of statement has a softening effect. Nevertheless, these are the words of one who is in no doubt about his position. He is speaking with authority to those who are under that authority. Here again, as in 2 Corinthians 12:9, there is a rough chiasmus in the order.

μή πως ἔρις. See critical note: the A.V. again ignores the πως. Lest by any means there should be strife, jealousy (2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Corinthians 3:3), wraths, factions (Philippians 1:17; Philippians 2:3 : see Lightfoot on Galatians 5:20, Sanday and Headlam on Romans 2:8), backbitings (see Bigg on 1 Peter 2:1), whisperings (Ecclesiastes 10:14.), swellings (here only), tumults (2 Corinthians 6:5; 1 Corinthians 14:33). The list of τὰ ἔργα τῆς σαρκός in Galatians 5:20 should be compared; ἔρις, ζῆλος, θυμοί, ἐριθίαι, in the same order, are in both passages. The shorter list in Romans 3:13 has ἔρις and ζῆλος. S. James (2 Corinthians 3:14; 2 Corinthians 3:16) combines ζῆλος and ἐριθεία (see Mayor’s note on James 3:14). The latter word is not derived from ἔρις, as Theodoret supposed: it is from ἔριθος ‘a hired labourer’; whence ἐριθεύεσθαι = ‘to hire political and party agents, to cabal,’ and ἐριθεία = ‘factiousness, party spirit,’ or its method, ‘intrigue.’ There is again no verb in the Greek; perhaps εὑρεθῶσιν should be supplied from the previous clause; ‘lest there should be found in you.’ Comp. the list of evils in Clement of Rome (Cor. iii. 2) ἐκ τούτου ζῆλος καὶ φθόνος καὶ ἔρις καὶ στάσις, διωγμὸς καὶ ἀκαταστασία, πόλεμος καὶ αἰχμαλωσία. With καταλαλιαί (1 Peter 2:1) comp. καταλαλεῖν (James 4:11; 1 Peter 2:12; 1 Peter 3:16), and κατάλαλος (Romans 1:30) combined with ψιθυριστής. The verb is classical, the nouns are not: καταλαλιά is first found in Wisdom of Solomon 1:11, and it occurs nowhere else in the LXX., while καταλαλεῖν is frequent. Perhaps καταλαλιαί mean ‘open calumnies;’ ψιθυρισμοί ‘insinuations’; occultae et clandestinae obtrectationes (Corn. a Lapide). On ἀκαταστασίαι see Hatch, Biblical Greek, p. 4: Chrysostom here omits the word.

Verse 21

21. μὴ πάλιν ἐλθόντος μου ταπεινώσῃ με ὁ θεός. Even with the subjunctive (see critical note) it is possible to make this also (see on 2 Corinthians 12:19) a question, as Lachmann does; but it is much more probable that the μή depends upon φοβοῦμαι: lest, when I come, my God should again humble me before you. He calls it a humiliation, although such a crisis would make him their judge, with strength to punish (2 Corinthians 13:3-9). Most English Versions, including A.V. and R.V., take πάλιν with ἐλθόντος (-τα). But this makes πάλιν superfluous, all the more so as ἐλθών, without πάλιν, has just been used of the return to Corinth. By its emphatic position πάλιν must have a meaning, and the only way to give it a meaning is to connect it with the whole sentence, not with ἐλθόντος singly. S. Paul had been humiliated during his short and painful visit (2 Corinthians 1:23), and he fears that he may have another experience of a similar kind. Krenkel (Beiträge, pp. 202 ff.) has collected more than twenty instances, from all four groups of the Pauline Epistles, in which ἔρχεσαι, without πάλιν, is used of returning to a place (2 Corinthians 1:15; 2 Corinthians 1:23, 2 Corinthians 2:3, 2 Corinthians 8:17, 2 Corinthians 12:20; 1 Corinthians 4:18-19; 1 Corinthians 11:34; 1 Corinthians 14:6; 1 Corinthians 16:2; 1 Corinthians 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:10-12; &c.). Moreover, in Romans 9:9, when quoting Genesis 18:10, he substitutes ἐλεύσομαι for the ἐπαναστρέφων ἤξω of the LXX., as if he felt that ἐλεύσομαι by itself sufficiently represented the meaning. Comp. John 4:27; John 9:7.

πρὸς ὑμᾶς. The meaning is not certain: either in relation to you, or among you, before you; for the latter comp. Matthew 26:55; Mark 9:19. The words must not be taken with ἐλθόντος.

καὶ πενθήσω πολλοὺς τῶν προημαρτηκότων καὶ μὴ μετανοησάντων. And I should mourn (1 Corinthians 5:2; James 4:9; Revelation 18:11; Revelation 18:15; Revelation 18:19) for many of them which were in sin before and did not repent. The προ-, like πάλιν, refers to the former visit. The Corinthians were in sin then, and ‘many’ of them (not all) ‘did not repent,’ when the Apostle came and rebuked them. That was a grievous humiliation. It would be a second humiliation, and yet one to be accepted as coming from God, if he were again to find the Church, which is his καύχημα (2 Corinthians 1:14), and his ἐπιστολὴ συστατική (2 Corinthians 3:2), and ἡ σφραγὶς τῆς ἀποστολῆς (1 Corinthians 9:2), in a condition of heathen impurity and impenitence. The perf. part. marks the continuance of the sinful state, ‘have sinned and continued in sin’: the aor. marks the refusal to repent at the time of S. Paul’s short visit. The rare compound προαμαρτάνειν occurs only here and 2 Corinthians 13:2 in Biblical Greek. Perhaps the case of incest is here glanced at, and in 2 Corinthians 13:2.

ἐπὶ τῇ ἀκαθαρσίᾳ. Some would take this after πενθήσω (an awkward construction), because in the N.T. μετανοεῖν is commonly followed by ἀπό (Acts 8:22; comp. Hebrews 6:1) or ἐκ (Revelation 2:21-22; Revelation 9:20-21; Revelation 16:11). But nowhere else in the Epistles does μετανοεῖν occur; and in the LXX. it is usually followed by ἐπί (Amos 7:3; Amos 7:6; Joel 2:13; Jonah 3:10; Jonah 4:2). Moreover the idea of repenting over a fault is quite intelligible: comp. δίδως ἐπὶ ἁμαρτήμασι μετάνοιαν (Wisdom of Solomon 12:19): μετεμελήθη ἐπὶ τῇ κακίᾳ (1 Chronicles 21:15).

In Galatians 5:19 (see Lightfoot) the order of these three words is πορνεία, ἀκαθαρσία, ἀσέλγεια. The first is a definite kind of uncleanness; the second is impurity of any kind; the third is outrageous disregard of decency, akin to ὕβρις (2 Corinthians 12:10). On the proposal to give ἀκαθαρσία the meaning of ‘covetousness’ see Lightfoot on 1 Thessalonians 2:3. Such a meaning would be inappropriate here, even if it were possible anywhere. Comp. the combinations in Ephesians 4:19 (where see Ellicott), 2 Corinthians 5:3; Colossians 3:5.

Both Tertullian (de Pudic. 15) and Cyprian (Ep. Leviticus 26) seem to have had a text in which (αἶς) ἔπραξαν came after ἀκαθαρσίᾳ (-αις), and Cyprian one in which all three substantives were in the plural: et non egerunt paenitentiam de inmunditiis quas fecerunt et fornicationibus et libidinibus. For ἀσέλγεια the Vulgate has commonly impudicitia, but in 1 Peter 4:3; 2 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 2:18; Judges 1:4, luxuria; nowhere libido, which Cyprian does not use in other passages. Tertullian has vilitas for ἀσέλγεια here and lascivia in Galatians 5:19 (de Pudic. 15, 17). The translator of Irenaeus uses libido in Romans 13:13 (IV. xxvii. 4) and immunditia in Galatians 5:19 (V. xi. 1). All which shows that there was no recognized Latin equivalent.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on 2 Corinthians 12:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

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Tuesday, October 27th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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